Viltrox has announced a new ultra-wide lens for full-frame Sony E-mount cameras. Unusually for a third-party lens from a smaller manufacturer, the Viltrox 16mm F1.8 FE is an autofocus design, incorporating a stepping motor AF system that's also said to support face AF and eye AF. The optical stack consists of 15 elements arranged in 12 groups, including three aspherical elements for improving image sharpness, and four extra-low dispersion elements to help control ghosting and flare. A 9-blade aperture diaphragm can be controlled directly from the rear-mounted control ring on the lens barrel. With a fast f/1.8 maximum aperture, the lens looks ideal for low-light handheld shooting, and also astrophotography.
Another neat feature is the built-in color information screen atop the lens barrel. Little information has been given as to what lens parameters can be viewed on the screen, but we're assuming it'll act primarily as a digital focus distance 'window', assisting with manual zone focussing and determining hyperfocal distance. Traditional focus distance windows used to be commonplace on DSLR lenses, but have become increasingly rare in the current era of 'drive-by-wire' focussing. We’ll have to wait and see whether Viltrox’s digital implementation turns out to be a useful alternative to an old-school mechanical distance scale. We do know that the display itself is an IPS LCD panel, with a 160x80-pixel resolution.
The Viltrox AF 16mm f/1.8 is available to pre-order now from pergear.com, Viltrox's primary distributor, priced at $549/£450. At this price point Sony itself doesn't really have a directly competing lens. Its closest alternative is the stellar FE 14mm F1.8 GM, but being from Sony's premium G-Master range, that lens will cost you around three times the price of the Viltrox - a lot for an extra 2mm of wide-angle range.